Israel denies proper treatment to Palestinian hunger strikers
Published Thursday, May 31, 2012
Israel is refusing to allow independent doctors visit two Palestinian hunger strikers whose health is sharply deteriorating, an NGO for Palestinian prisoners said on Thursday.
Mahmoud Sarsak is nearing death after 74 days on a hunger strike, while Akram Rikhawi's health is worsening after 50 days of refusing food, the NGO Addameer reported.
"Despite the urgency of their conditions, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) is still denying access to independent doctors from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) to visit them and refusing to transfer them to civilian hospitals for proper treatment," Addameer said in a statement.
"PHR-Israel, Addameer and Al-Haq are outraged by the IPS’ blatant breach of health rights and by the Israeli District Court’s disregard of the immediate danger to their lives," it added.
The pair have continued their hunger strike to push for an earlier release, despite a deal earlier in the month ended the hunger strike campaign of roughly 2,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Mahmoud is being held without charge or trial under Israel's Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows the Jewish state to detain Palestinians indefinitely without ever charging them of an offense.
Israel's detention policies, dating back to the British mandate era of historic Palestine, has been savaged by leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as a violation of international humanitarian law.
Mahmoud began his strike on March 19 after his detention was again extended on March 1, and has insisted on a release date before ending his hunger strike.
Addameer reports that Israeli authorities had offered Mahmoud a release date in July, but withdrew the offer after Mahmoud insisted in having it in writing.
Mahmoud's brother, Imad, slammed Israel's treatment of the prisoners, which has included solitary confinement and a ban on family contact.
"We haven't spoken to Mahmoud for three months, ever since he went on strike, and we haven't seen him in three years because visits are prohibited," Imad said.
"Before he was moved to an isolated cell, he used to call us but secretively because that was forbidden also."
Imad expressed fears his brother might perish behind Israeli bars, and pleaded for a deal to be struck to save his life.
"Given his critical situation now and having seen the doctor's report, I really want him to settle for an agreement,” he told Al-Akhbar.
"He's fainting a lot and suffering from slow heart beat and pains all over his body. If he's not saved soon, he might die," Imad said.
Rikhawi, from Gaza, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment in 2004, but has been denied the opportunity for an early release despite serving two-thirds of his term.
PHR-Israel lodged an appeal to the District Court on behalf of the pair last week demanding immediate access to independent doctors, according to Addameer.
The District Court gave the IPS a 12 day period before it can allow independent doctors to visit the Palestinian detainees, effectively placing the men at risk of death before PHR-Israel doctors will be permitted to visit them.
Addameer argued that the prison medical center is not equipped to deal with long-term hunger strikers, and is urging Israeli authorities transfer the pair to a civilian hospital.